NAS & Partners Frown at Mandatory HIV Testing for School Children

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Proprietor Providence International High School

By Theresa Kef Sesay

In a Press Statement released by the National HIV/ AIDS Secretariat on the 31st January 2020 relating to mandatory HIV testing of school children in Freetown, the Secretariat, National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) and its Partners made it categorically clear that reports of mandatory HIV testing in a co-educational school in Freetown is totally contrary to Section 28 of the 2011 National HIV and AIDS Act of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

It furthered how NAS and its partners received frantic calls from parents of children who were subjected to compulsory HIV testing on diverse dates in 2019 and 2020.  According to the Statement parents explained that a certain Proprietor of a private school in Freetown (Providence International High School) designed a form and compulsorily solicited HIV testing for its pupils contrary to the Act.

“HIV testing is a voluntary and confidential test conducted by health care workers. The school as an educational institution soliciting compulsory HIV testing, is not only contravening the law, but also abusing the rights of these children,” it continues adding that they  are therefore calling on all parents and guardians to work with the Sierra Leone Police as the matter is under investigation for necessary charges to be brought to court.

The Statement also states that NAS and its partners are mindful of the obligation of the Government of Sierra Leone to the UN and the International Conventions and Protocols on the Right of the Child to which Sierra Leone is a signatory. In that light the Secretariat and partners are imploring the public to report all such matters to relevant Government authorities and the Police, for necessary action to be taken whenever they are privy to such information.

“We therefore call on the Sierra Leone Police who are investigating the issue to accelerate the investigations and prosecution of the school proprietors, authorities, and medical testing laboratories as this matter will affect the lives and work of people living with HIV and their families, health care workers, the international community, donors and the efforts put in place by the Government of Sierra Leone to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 in Sierra Leone,” it also pointed out.

NAS, NACP and its partners are reminding stakeholders and the general public that HIV testing in Sierra Leone is Voluntary, Confidential and Free as stipulated in the 2011 National HIV and AIDS Act of the Republic of Sierra Leone.  They are also calling on the media and all involved to ensure the protection of the rights of the concerned families and pupils is guaranteed.

The statement ended by maintaining that “We Are Stronger Together in the Fight Against Stigma and Discrimination.” It further reiterates that subject to the 2011 National HIV and AIDS Act no person shall compel another person to undergo an HIV test

(2) No person shall compel another person to undergo an HIV test as a precondition for and the continued enjoyment of –

  • (a) employment;
  • (b) marriage
  • (c) admission into any educational institution;
  • (d) entry into or travel out of the country; or
  • (e) the provision of healthcare, insurance cover or any other services

(3) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offense.

 

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